Disciple Making in the Local Church

The Role and Importance of the Local Church [Spiritual Gifts]

The process of discipleship is not one that is left to the sole proprietorship of the pastor.  It is the responsibility of the entire body or community of believers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer presented a convicting explanation of what the community of believers represents.  He begins by explaining that, “Jesus Christ lives here on earth in the form of his body, the church-community.”[1]  Christians are well aware that Jesus told the disciples to follow him and they would become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19 NIV).[2]  Bonhoeffer continued the discourse, “To be in Christ means to be in the church-community. . . . For Christ truly is and eternally remains the incarnate one and the new humanity truly is his body [of]. . . . . Christian believers filled with [the incarnate] Christ.”[3]  In explaining Ephesians 4: 11– 14, Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey concurred with Bonhoeffer.  They declared, “This passage is saying that the church is the same thing as the body of Christ. They are synonymous. In addition, Paul points out that the body of Christ is to be built up [by] “the proper working of each individual part.”[4]

Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington and Robert Coleman proposed that the local church has a specific role to play; it involves a methodology that includes sharing, connecting, ministering and disciplining.[5]  The authors purport that when the church works with unsaved people it does so at the” Share” level; it knows that they need salvation. . . .they need biblical evidence of the incarnation of Christ, and an invitation to accept him (John 3:16). [6] In this phase, believers also need an understanding of what it means to be a Christian; they also learn what obedience to Christ means and demonstrates it in daily living.[7]

Connect is the second methodology presented by Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, “Churches can reach out corporately through small groups, community groups, church services, and various ministries.”[8]  The local church reaches out in this manner by obedience to the Lord’s admonishment to congregate, and to carry out The Great Commission.  As the church connects with congregants, it teaches them how to establish relationships with fellow believers (Galatians 5:13). As believers connect with each other, they learn obedience to the commandment to, “Love one another” (John 13:34).  Connection leads to, “Consecration [consecration] means that, like Jesus, we help people to obey God’s teachings.”[9]  Robert Coleman extends the concept of consecration by explaining what obedience means,

Supreme obedience was interpreted to be the expression of love. Jesus said: “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. . . . This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I have told you[10]

The local congregation teaches the new disciples how to demonstrate agape love.  The teaching of obedience can come from the pastor, through Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, or discipleship mentors.[11] Obedience to the teachings of the Lord comes only from the knowledge of said teachings (2 Timothy 2:2).

According to Putman, Harrington and Coleman, the third methodology is “train to minister”.[12]  It is a three pronged process that begins with demonstrative teaching.  Jesus’ entire ministry while he was on earth was a demonstrative one.  He used parables to teach (Mt 13:1-44). The second part of this process involves delegation. The authors stated, “Delegation means we not only encourage people to do ministry in Jesus’ name but also supply opportunities and places for them to do ministry. . . disciple makers need to give people a time and place when and where they can participate in doing something, or they will soon get bored and walk away.”[13]  Jesus delegated “missions’ to his disciples too (Mark 6: 7-13). Paul used delegation too (2 Timothy 2:2).  The authors detailed an accountability processes that they referred to as coaching.[14] Jesus used the “coaching” process with his disciples (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 16:13-20).

In the final stage, “release to be a disciple maker” in other words the disciple is now expected to go out and bear spiritual fruit by discipling others; “Every disciple has the capability and the responsibility to minister to others in God’s name. [Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey calls this stage, “Produce Reproducers”]”[15] The disciple who has learned how to share, connect, and train to minister, is now ready to begin the process of carrying out The Great Commission. This statement of the authors clarifies the final stage, “The best indicator that someone is mature is not that they are making disciples but that they are making disciples who have gone on to be disciple makers themselves.”[16]

Part of the process of becoming a disciple and making disciples is recognizing an individual’s spiritual gifts.  Discipleship, within the body of Christ, is a symbiotic process when each member is intentionally utilizing the gifts that God has given them for the equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:11–13).  Stephen Hong declared, “The mission of the church on earth is not just to preach the gospel but to be the living expression of the gospel.”[17] That example is borne out each week as the local church meets as a body of spirit filled individuals who are obedient to the will of God will produce fruit (Hebrews 10:24-25).[18]  The pastor plays a pivotal role in the vision and mission of a church that is bearing fruit, utilizing the acquired spiritual gifts and growing disciples for the Kingdom of God.

Role of the Pastor

            What is the role of the pastor in the local congregation and the discipleship process?

Earley and Dempsey describes the pastor’s role,

Pastors are to “train” or “equip” the saints, and the saints are to do the “work of ministry.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains that this “training” (katartismon) properly refers to “the restoring of anything to its place.’” This arranging has to do with helping the saints “grow up in every way into Him,” becoming “mature” believers. This involves properly connecting the individual inside the body, just as Christ desires.[19]

Paul tells the Ephesians that Christ gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, to prepare his people for ministry, so that the body of Christ may become mature in every respect as the mature body of him who is the head. (Ephesians 4:11-16).  The pastor’s job is to share the gospel, teach, train, equip, connect, and prepare the congregation for the process of reproducing disciples.[20]  He delegates to elders, deacons, and other leaders in the congregation.  He operates on an individual basis; he is responsible for the growth and development of each member in the congregation; he must ensure that they are growing, understand what spiritual gifts are, and are maturing in the faith.[21] However in the final analysis, “Christian leadership is the process of influencing individuals to follow God’s plan for their lives and become all they can be for Christ and His mission.”[22] After the pastor, “planted the seed, [Elders and others] water it, but God . . . . makes it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

              In concluding, the author wrote this paper to look at the role of the church in the discipleship process.   The paper also explored the importance of the local church and the use of spiritual gifts.  The research in this paper discussed that local congregations, share, connect, minister and disciple.  The discipleship process ends with disciples producing other disciples.  Secondly the author also addressed the role of the pastor in the discipleship process.  Research indicated that pastors, congregations, and leaders within the body of Christ must demonstrate the deity and incarnation of Christ.  When demonstration of the incarnate nature of Christ is evident in a believer’s life it leads to obedience to The Law of Love for God and man as well as equipping the Saints for The Great Commission.  


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.

Coleman, Robert Emerson. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: F.H. Revell, 1993.  Kindle.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. Kindle.

Hong, Stephen A. “Reversing a Downward Spiral: Strengthening the Church’s Community, Holiness and Unity through Intentional Discipleship.” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 89-125. Accessed November 7, 2014. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman. DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013.


[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 218 and 220.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New

International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998).

[3] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 216.

[4] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Locations 3270-3272, Kindle.

[5] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Emerson Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013), 153.

[6] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 155-156

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 159.

[10] Robert Emerson Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids, MI: F.H. Revell, 1993), 55-56. Kindle.

[11] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 159.

[12] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 159.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 160

[15] Ibid., 163 and Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Location 2114. Kindle.

[16] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 164.

[17] Stephen A. Hong, “Reversing a Downward Spiral: Strengthening the Church’s Community, Holiness and Unity through Intentional Discipleship.,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 125, accessed November 7, 2014, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

[18] Putman, Harrington, and Coleman, DiscipleShift, 163-165.

[19] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Locations 754-760.

[20] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, Locations 3537-3538, Kindle.

[21] Ibid., Location 3377.

[22] Ibid., Location 3463.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bueller
    Nov 20, 2014 @ 10:13:56

    This is one I need to “pray” on. There is so much information as to what a “church” is supposed to be doing and I’m not sure I see that. Of course we live in an area with very few people and only two churches, with 4 different religions. I see the Mormons doing their “teaching” as they come to talk to us even with our sign showing Jew and Christian. It’s always so much fun to listen to my husband talk with them as he knows both sides of the picture. Sometimes he shakes their beliefs for a period of time. But, then he has read the Torah, Koran and Bible. So he knows what each says. I understand the need for discipleship as pastors cannot go it alone. There are too few of them and too many of those who are still “looking” for whatever they need. These lessons in discipleship are tough and sometimes difficult to undertake. However we continue to walk as Jesus walked and talk as Jesus talked. I just pray I am doing all I can!!


  2. Joyce
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 12:45:50

    You are.. as a member of the Egg Angels team you are talking to members of he Team Network blog. So, now just make the offer to pray for them when they have a need. Let them know that you are available for them if they need to know how God has changed your life and made a 360 degrees turn in it. It is always easier to witness to people by telling them our own story of how God is working in our lives. We don’t have to quote scripture etc., We just need to walk the talk!


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